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Anne Dalke's picture

Writing the unthinkable: the cul-de-sac of creative evolution

I've just finished an interesting late '60-ish memoir-ish novel (novel-ish memoir? really not quite sure about the genre here) called Divorcing, by Susan Taubes, a BMC philosophy major '51, later philosopher, epistemologist--and suicide. Taubes's memoir/novel is very cinematic and dream-like in its cutting back and forth between the world w/in and the world w/out (and in its confusions about where one ends and the other begins--as well as how books operate in that space in between: "You can be dreaming and not know it. You can be awake and wonder if it’s a dream and not believe it. But...with a book, whether you’re reading it or writing it, you are awake…In a book she knew where she was" [88]).

Anyhow, it looks as though Susan Taubes and her (in)famous husband tried a series of miserably unconventional, unhappy  arrangements, motivated largely by the assumption that "romantic love is the great cul-de-sac of creative evolution. God’s big booboo” (246). And so, in the context of that memoir/novel, I found myself wondering whether that  is, in large part, what these many words below are circling 'round: the question whether our loving (committed?) relationships w/ one another 1) fuel or 2) stunt our own growth--along with that of the universe. How much are they open to life's possibilities, how much do they close 'em down?

Speaking of which: I spent a good portion of the past weekend in a workshop on "Writing the Unthinkable" with Lynda Barry, who, it turns out, has a pretty good sense of how the unconscious works to feed consciousness : almost all the exercises she gave us were intended to "open up the drawbridge between the back of the brain and the front of it," to help us develop a "gradual belief in a spontaneous ordering form available in the back of our minds."

But for me the workshop (all two-day-long eight hours of it!) stopped short, in not going beyond the brainstorming portion of writing to the revising and editing and forward-moving part. We were accessing the past --" go back to the earliest times," Barry said again and again; and while you're there, make a list of your elementary school classmates, or of other people's mothers. But there wasn't any moving into (writing to?) the future. We were accessing memories, enjoying the experience of writing...whereto?



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